This is a portion of the opening section of the Japan Sports Notebook published by JAPAN Forward and SportsLook on March 20, 2022.

By Ed Odeven

Super heavyweight weightlifter Yury Petrovich Vlasov was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s earliest heroes, inspiring him to pump iron as a teenager. 

Now, more than 60 years later, the latter spoke of the former’s amazing athletic exploits, how much he admired him and how the Russian propaganda machine is lying to the nation’s citizens about the war in Ukraine in a video posted online this week that quickly went viral.

The introduction of Schwarzenegger’s video, distributed widely on Thursday, March 17, established the personal connection between muscular stars of different eras.

Schwarzenegger speaks directly to the Russian people, discussing the ongoing war in Ukraine. The English-language video delivered via the Austrian-born former California governor, movie star and bodybuilder’s Twitter account and other social media platforms and media outlets has Russian subtitles. (It’s been viewed nearly 33 million times on Twitter, as of 12 AM JST on Sunday, March 20.)

Vlasov was a gold medalist at the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics and runner-up four years later at the Tokyo Games. He was born in Makeyevka, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and was the Soviet Union’s flagbearer at Japan’s National Stadium during the Opening Ceremony on October 10, 1964. 

Schwarzenegger would himself be crowned Mr. Universe as a 20-year-old, then won the Mr. Olympia title on seven occasions. He idolized Vlasov, who died in February 2021, decades before The Terminator, Predator and other Hollywood films made Schwarzenegger a global icon.

The 74-year-old began his video by saying, “I have a message for my Russian friends, and for the Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine: There are things going on in the world that have been kept from you, terrible things that you should know about. But before I tell you about the harsh realities, let me tell you about the Russian who became my hero.

“In 1961, when I was 14 years old, I had the chance to attend the World Weightlifting Championships in Vienna. Yury Petrovich Vlasov won the world championship title, becoming the first human being to lift 200 kilograms over his head. Somehow, a friend of mine got me backstage. All of a sudden a 14-year-old boy was standing in front of the strongest man in the world. I couldn’t believe it. He reached out to shake my hand. I mean, I still had a boy’s hand. He had this powerful man’s hand that swallowed mine, but he was kind. And he smiled at me.

“I never forgot that day. Never.”


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